I’m Chutney

I’m in a bit of a spot. Last Friday I was asked to help design a new museum exhibit. It will have to be done quietly. The existing exhibit is extremely popular but it poses no shortage of challenges and problems. The concept is good. It is a recreated Pre-Contact village scene. However, it is an insect-infested curatorial nightmare. How can decades-old twigs, leaves and pine-needles be kept clean? Some parts of the display break all rules of contemporary artefact conservation such as 140-year-old baskets being allowed to collect dust in an unprotected area or animal hides being allowed to sit out and never be cleaned or maintained. Associated displays and information are hideously outdates. Grandparents remember using the displays that their young grand-children are now playing with when they were teenagers.

The new park manager is an actual museum curator who was sent to manage facilities after years of neglect. He is trying to solve the biggest problems first – especially one that poses a danger to this museum’s priceless collection of indigenous Californian baskets, one of the best in the state. Over the next two months we will work together on alternate displays/exhibits to replace the existing mess. Naturally the local tribe will be involved with the process at all levels and they will approve any final designs. The difficult part is dealing with well-meaning docents who don’t grasp the seriousness of the threats posed by pest infestation in a museum that, after nearly three years is finally getting its doors fixed.

I was the only experienced docent willing to work with him on it. All work must be done quietly and not many can be informed of these future changes until it will be too late to try to stop it. That, and that loveable cheeky-chinky-chappy who stabbed me in the back twice while in China has invited himself for Chrimbo.

Author: Christopher-Dorset

A Bloody Kangaroo

25 thoughts on “I’m Chutney”

  1. Christopher, you and I are separatedby a common language. Chutney? Pre-Contact? Docents? Give me a clue what this is about.

  2. Janus: I usually avoid technical jargon but could not do so this time. The words exist in all forms of English. If they were unique to a sub-Canadian variety, I would rather have eaten my eyeballs than use them. “Pre-Contact” is an academic term for indigenous societies, especially in the Americas and Oceania, prior to the establishment of relations with European states. A “docent” is a highly-trained volunteer, usually at a museum or other public facility. “Chutney” is a play on words. I didn’t want to say that “I’m in a pickle” so I simply said “I’m chutney” which is really the same thing.

  3. OK, lad, you are forgiven! As a matter of interest, how do you pronounce ‘docent’? (I am boringly aware of its etymology….) Chutney is a favourite savoury of mine; Mum’s was incomparable.

  4. Mornin’ Christopher. There is a quaint Sunday evening programme on Auntie Beeb called ‘Antiques Roadshow’. Every now and then somebody turfs up with a selection of moccasins, gloves, beaded trinkets, arrows and suchlike which great great granddad acquired when he worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company back in the nineteenth century. The valuations are eye-watering.

    Perhaps your museum ought to cash in and acquire something more durable. Either that or take them to Australia and have the Department of Immigration and Border Protection fumigate them for you. They are very thorough.

    Hope this helps. No charge.


  5. Real exhibits are so….yesterday. Y’need screen ‘n lasers n’ holowotsits, innit? If it helps, a second cousin of mine is the world authority on dragonflies at the Nat Hist Mus, London…..:-)

  6. I cannot understand why it should all be kept secret. Obviously organic native baskets are going to fall apart if they are left exposed. Why does it all have to be so underhand?
    As for the chink tell him it is inconvenient and you will not be home at Christmas!

  7. Janus: most say “dough sent”. There are lovely chutneys for sale in the California’s Central Valley. There is a large South Asian contingent and many small farms.

    Oz: when I was much younger I enjoyed watching “Antiques Roadshow”. Comparing the Pommie and Septic versions was always amusing. “‘Your grandfather’s beaded Cree tobacco holder is worth £5694839648658247562893456284572439856723489562389456234895629834567293845628394567’. ‘Oh, isn’t that lovely'”. “‘Your grandmother’s painting is worthless but the frame itself is worth $20’. Oh my g-d, oh my g-d, I can’t believe it! Honey, did you hear that, it’s worth $20′”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Specified Yank would then bounce about excitedly for the next few hours.

    The collection is mostly secured. The problem is with that one exhibit. I should offer to fly to Australia to have everything fumigated, though. Qantas once again offer direct flights from San Francisco and if I can get someone else to pay for my tickets… Original indigenous artwork from North America and Australia is terribly expensive and highly desirable. It is publicly-owned, however, so I doubt very much that I would be given authorisation to do that. Bugger.

    CO: that exhibit is very popular. It is aesthetically pleasing and many have grown fond of it over many, many years. The curator asked for advice and assistance from several others but they refuse to even consider the notion that it needs to be changed. There are cobwebs, piles of dust, barely-concealed insect carcasses, etc. but people like it and they don’t want to change it — even if it threatens everything else. Because that museum was neglected for years people are used to doing what they please knowing that nobody will intervene. Finally someone is there who can sort things out but they don’t like being told that they will have to change how they do things as well. They cannot overrule him, but they can make his life very unpleasant. We have to be underhanded about this in order to accomplish anything.
    The female-type parent thinks it is just lovely that the back-stabbing chink is on his way. Gads.

  8. Maybe an insecticidal chemical dip for the most valuable pieces of stuff and sod the rest, could just be replaced, suitably ‘aged’? At least that way you would not incur any large costs and nobody would ever know. A large container and $50 of chemicals!
    Easy peasy.

    Janus yes I do! But get incredibly bored with apple! My best in a long time is plum and ginger chutney, under great demand that one. I use wild plums from the hedgerows here, nothing like free ingredients!
    Would work with damsons too. So many chutneys are so boring one falls asleep getting it out the jar!

  9. Christopher
    Silly bugger, you shouldn’t have told her! Serves you right for just not emailing back that you would be elsewhere or dying of a contagious disease caught in China!
    Where are your lack of scruples?
    Now you see the wisdom of getting rid of a spare bedroom. This house is supposedly three bedrooms, unfortunately we only have one and one bed. Let the beastly visitors pay for their own hotel and then they won’t come!

  10. CO: as it belongs to the California State Parks system there is so much paperwork involved for even the most simple procedures… Could you possibly give me your plum chutney recipe?

    I have to at least retain a veneer of pleasantness with the lad. He is the only one able to retrieve several thousand pounds that are stuck in a Chinese bank account. He’s a bloody nuisance, but he isn’t a thief. I will, however, remind him not so subtly that the Japanese are his superiors and that it’s a great pity he isn’t from somewhere decent like Hong Kong or Taiwan. I’ve also made it clear that he can sleep on a cot in the basement as I am disinclined to surrender my bed or even a small portion of my bedroom for anyone, much less the likes of him. I will also take him to a Cambodian supermarket. Nothing irks a self-respecting Han more than having to bow down to South-East Asians for his necessities.

  11. Christopher – I didn’t even know there was a Septic version of the Antiques Roadshow, but if it anything like the Septic version of Top Gear ot Masterchef, then it will have been as cr@p as you imply. Anyway, just like in the two World Wars the Septics arrived very late to civilisation, yet still claim the credit.

    I was in transit somewhere hot and sticky minding my own business in an airport lounge waiting for the onward flight to somewhere hotter and stickier when some Septic in a ‘Hawaiian’ (Don’t even get me started on that subject) shirt plonked his considerable bulk onto an adjacent bar stool and ordered a particular bottle of frozen headache known as ‘a Bud’. “So, where y’all from, buddy?”, he asked. “Liverpool, England”, I replied, politely, “and which tribe are you from?”

    It went quiet.


  12. CO: I’ve called in favours and found a few people to occupy his attention. This will reduce the amount of time I have to spend minding him. Ta muchly for the recipe in advance.

    Oz: it was rubbish in an amusing way. Most people reacted with the emotional incontinence that Americans have perfected. At times they wished for the entire world to know that they were chuffed to bits. At other times they were terribly displeased that their antiquated rubbish was simply rubbish that hadn’t been tossed out for decades and was well past due. The most grating example was when a couple from Kentucky brought a collection of 18th century Chinese jade. They were the types who considered a velvet picture of Elvis to be the highest form of human expression. The Fates would have it that the lot was fair dinkum and worth a not insubstantial sum of money. The British version was far more interesting.

    Once, in Trier, a very obviously American woman popped in at one of my favourite shops — a Thai grocer. She was absolutely incapable of paying for her tiny purchase despite having a pile of euros. I could feel some sympathy for people on their first visit to, say the US or even the UK with its new coinage as the denominations are written in small letters with no numbers to be seen. But euros? No, not with the denomination being so clearly shown that anyone with even slightly better eyesight than Andrea Bocelli could read it. The two clerks, one from Thailand, the other from Hong Kong, could not speak enough English to communicate. Said Yank looked at me with an obvious expression of desperation on her face. I simply continued to chat away with the clerks in Hunnish.

  13. Christopher, pronunciation is an idiosyncratic affair. We presume the Latin c in docent was hard, otherwise it would have been an s (!) but some scholars try to soften the c, believing it was pronounced with the modern Italian tch sound. Who knows? Yanks often mangle pronunciations anyway. I’m thinking herbs, nuclear (thank you Dubya) and (as ever, Backside’s favourite topic) lingerie.

  14. Sorry Janus, but ‘screen ‘n lasers n’ holowotsits’ don’t replace the real thing… just been to a British Museum exhibition here in Brisbane… real items – absolutely packed out!

    Good Luck with your problem Christopher – I wouldn’t like the task of removing ‘beloved’ items from displays that have existed for several generations!

    If you have the space you could put on a grand and well-advertised exhibition of similar items that are in good nick and sneak the other lot away… 🙂

    But I’d go for an honest approach and simply replace the items with a card that says “Removed For Conservation’.

    As to your visitor – if you need his help don’t send him to the basement – or antagonise him. “Organise” a family crisis that necessitates him staying elsewhere. Whatever he’s done remember that “revenge is best eaten cold” – and definitely after all financial problems have been solved!

  15. Boa, our tongues were in our respective cheeks! Maybe just during the conservation period some items could be electronicaly represented somehow?

  16. Janus: the mixed blessing of learning Latin is that there is no true “native speaker” to correct anyone’s pronunciation. Some say it was a hard sound, others say it was an Africate “c”, others say it is a soft “c”. It’s conjecture at best. A fascinating bit of conjecture, but conjecture none-the-less. As for your favourite word, everyone knows that it’s lunge-ery.

    Boadicea: later on, when that exhibit is in the process of being rebuilt, those cards will be placed. We are not lying about it, but we need to ensure that plans are advanced and palatable before we fully come out with it. The concept won’t be completely different or alien, but it has to be sound and not attract decades of pests.

    He is so thick that he wouldn’t notice. He would, however, see through any orchestrated “family crisis” as it would require my flying to either Germany, Australia or Orange County. He will arrive tomorrow afternoon so it’s too late to change much!

  17. I was surprised once to be asked to say Grace at a luncheon in The City. Caught on the hop, I went for the ‘Oculi omnium in te sperant…..Tui sunt caeli….’ option. You know the one, or maybe not. It does go on a bit. Anyway, the President, who went to a much posher school than I, commented afterwards on my ‘unusual’ pronunciation. He may have been right, but who was he to say? I doubt Romans spoke with a slight Scouse accent, but nobody knows as Cicero, Juvenal, the various Caesars and the rest of them didn’t bother to leave any recordings. Akshully, his idea of how Latin was pronounced is no better or more correct than mine. And you can’t look at present day romance languages for any guidance either. Spanish and Portuguese, for example, look remarkably similar on the page, much more so than French and Italian, but are spoken as differently as giz e queijo,/em>.


  18. OZ, Our college grace was similar, spoken by the Organ Scholar every evening. Since the college had an unusually high proportion of northerners, said Scholar often sported a fine, non-received accent. Latin in Black Country twang has to be heard to be appreciated.

  19. Quite so, Janus. I can be quite sure that even back in the day, Latin was spoken with many varied and regional accents, as is English today There is no ‘correct’ pronunciation of Latin. Down here native speakers can even tell which village (most not more than 10 km apart) along the coast another comes from. Likewise, when I go up t’North I know my spoken Portuguese sounds like I’m the equivalent of Farmer Giles from Zummerzet.


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